Irrigation scheme to combat future droughts

 View TV3's Video of the the irrigation scheme at Rangitata River, Canterbury

Irrigation scheme_to_combat_future_droughts

TV3The irrigation scheme by the Rangitata River

By TV 3 Reporter


More government money will go into irrigation schemes to stop a repeat of this year's drought problems for farmers.

But down in South Canterbury they've already thought of that – the country's biggest earthworks project is nearing completion for two huge irrigation schemes beside the Rangitata River.

It's a $100 million job, but easy to miss as you drive through the south Canterbury countryside. Behind the country's biggest earthworks project is Gary Rooney, a Waimate-based construction company boss who prefers to let his diggers do the talking.

They're capturing water from the Rangitata – for years much of its extra water has been wasted, flowing to sea.

On its south side, Mr Rooney bought a whole farm and converted it to 300 hectares of ponds – basically a water bank. The saved water will be sent through 70km of canals for farmers to keep their cow paddocks green and lush, up to 16,000 hectares.

"We've got this project which has got about a million square metres of liner, and another across the river which is another million-and-a-half square metres," says manager Colin Dixon." style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; list-style-image: none; color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">

Across the river are another three massive ponds, fully lined to stop seepage – water reserves for farmers on a different irrigation scheme. Overseas experts, nicknamed carpet layers, are leading the lining project.

"I've been on a few big ones, but this is the biggest and probably will be the biggest I ever work on," says Kevin Monaghan.

A windy day could spell disaster.

The crew have also battled floods but the project's forging ahead, including a rock wall to stop fish getting into the irrigation channel.

The scheme even comes with its own spawning race, designed so salmon can come back and breed in their own river.

Next step is for the canals to be put in. The ponds will be in action next spring.

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